Burgers in 2013: What's Trending Now?

The burger has become the perfect canvas for culinary creativity. Here are some of the top burger trends this year.
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Double Cheeseburger with Bacon
Double Cheeseburger with Bacon

I don't ever need a reason to talk about burgers, but since this month happens to be National Burger Month, why not talk about some popular trends making their way between the buns this year? Burgers are as American as apple pie and have been popular since 1904, the year generally acknowledged as the date when the burger was introduced to the public. Grilling the perfect burger has become a hobby, an art, a passion.

Well done, medium-rare, organic, or spicy barbecue -- no matter your preference, nothing beats a great burger. And with summer just around the corner, backyard grills across America will soon be firing up for everyone's favorite summertime fare: juicy, mouthwatering burgers.

It's not just about lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion anymore, and gourmet chefs have recently become as innovative with burgers as the creative home cooks who have entered Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest for over 20 years. Trends show that both professional chef and everyday cooks in homes across the country find inspiration ranging from favorite ethnic cuisines to beloved neighborhood eateries to create unique, savory burgers with unexpected ingredients.

According to a recent Technomic survey, 91 percent of people that responded said they eat a burger at least once a month, and 44 percent said they consume burgers at least once a week! And that's not all. As head judge of the Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest since 1995, I've enjoyed seeing the various trends among the hundreds of recipes submitted each year. What's hot in burger trends this year includes inspiration from ethnic cuisines, tasty alternatives to beef patties, and creative substitutions for commonly-used lettuce.

Since becoming a mainstay of American cuisine, the burger has become the perfect canvas for culinary creativity. Here are some of the top burger trends this year:

Ethnic-inspired burgers are on the rise. There is a growing fascination with ethnic foods and spices. Burgers inspired by Tex-Mex and Latin flavors feature ingredients such as a raspberry-chipotle spread, cilantro-pecan pesto, and raspberry-avocado salsa. Popular flavors from Asian countries have made their way to burgers, like gochujang, a Korean chili paste that has been used as a basting sauce. Spices commonly found in Indian dishes, such as cumin, coriander, and garam masala, are used to add rich flavor to burger patties. I've also seen other burger ingredients that are creatively made from Asian ingredients, such as a Thai basil and sweet chili sauce and Japanese miso and wasabi.

Favorite dishes are turning into burgers. Everyone has a favorite restaurant menu item or home-cooked meal, so why not turn a beloved dish into a burger? I've come across hundreds of burger recipes inspired by favorite meals, including a caramelized green curry burger that was crafted from someone's love of a crispy watercress salad served at a neighborhood restaurant. Taking breakfast for dinner to whole new level, many burger recipes turn favorite breakfast foods like eggs, maple syrup and biscuits, into a tasty burger fit for any time of the day.

Consumers are looking beyond beef. Beef alternatives for burgers have been making their way between burger buns for over 20 years, and this year is no different. More and more recipes feature other proteins, vegan options, and fish. Salmon is especially popular since it makes for a fresh and light burger that's still delicious and filling. Beef alternatives like lamb or chicken have also caught my attention this year, as the trend for meat alternatives is not only for vegetarians or non-meat eaters.

Interest in different kinds of "greens" is gaining popularity. Finally, as burger recipes continue to get creative, the staples of the basic burger still remain, but with a twist. The usual lettuce leaf is being swapped out for more flavorful greens, such as arugula or micro greens. I recently saw an Asian-inspired burger that substituted the lettuce with roasted seaweed sheets.

Not only is it National Burger Month, but Memorial Day is just around the corner; the perfect reason to fire up the grill and enjoy some great burgers and wine with family and friends.

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